More than 70 percent of leads generated for Patriot Pool & Spa of Austin, Texas, come from Yelp, company president Hal Denbar says. And Denbar emphasizes that its 80-plus Yelp reviews — one of the highest for any pool and spa professional business on the site — are all unsolicited.
Genna Gold, senior manager of business outreach for Yelp, says 2018’s second-quarter analysis shows 104 million people visit Yelp on their mobile devices each month, and 74 million on desktops. Since the inception of Yelp in 2004, there have been more than 163 million reviews written on the site.
Chet Thornberry is co-founder and managing partner of Collective Inbound, a Cape Canaveral, Florida, marketing company that focuses services within the pool and spa industries. “From our inception, we immediately knew the value of Yelp as a marketing channel,” Thornberry says. “We use Yelp as a method of displaying social proof, branding and basic search engine optimization benefits for our clients.”
The Hot Tub Store, which has four locations in the San Francisco Bay area, has a Yelp page for each store location with a total of nearly 100 reviews. Dan Friedman, general manager, says starting a Yelp account is vital because a page for your business is going to be on the site regardless of whether you claim it. “If you don’t claim your page, it’s just going to sit there,” Friedman says. “Somebody could post a negative review and, if you haven’t claimed your page, you won’t even get a notification.”
A successful Yelp account needs to have as much information as possible about your business, as well as a personal touch. “We’ve got pictures of all our people,” Denbar says. “We’ve got stuff that shows some personality and makes it obvious that they’re going to be interacting with a real person.”
Yelp is a transactional search directory, Gold says, which means “consumers aren’t searching for on Yelp for fun,” she says. “They have a need and are prepared to make a purchase decision.” Gold cites a Nielsen study that found 82 percent of customers are on Yelp with the intent to spend. She advises enabling the Request a Quote feature to allow consumers to connect with you when deciding who to hire.
The Service Area feature is also helpful. When a Yelper lands on your Yelp page, the service area — up to six zip codes — will appear as a shaded portion on the business page map, Gold says.
Accentuate the Positive
The platform’s stance on soliciting reviews is pretty clear: If you’re caught doing it, they’ll ban you. Gold says asking for reviews at all can create bias, making it difficult for users to compare reviews across businesses.
What’s the alternative? Use the branding materials Yelp provides, such as embedded links to your Yelp profile, a link to your Yelp page in email signatures, and ‘Find Us on Yelp’ stickers anywhere customers may see them.
Collective Inbound employs techniques that help motivate customers to leave Yelp reviews. “We embed positive reviews on landing pages or on the actual website,” Thornberry says. “Something interactive that a user can see as an actual, live review is a great way to build trust.”
Thornberry also recommends setting up a tablet in your retail location. His clients leave the tablet Collective Inbound provides on a stand and open to the company’s Yelp profile. Thornberry says his clients have seen a huge uptick just by having their profile readily available in the store.
Dealing With the Negative
As with any review-driving social platform, one-star reviews happen. How you handle them is critical to making the negative ones disappear entirely or bear little weight on future Yelp leads.
Thornberry recommends turning on notifications — whether through email or the Yelp app — so you’re aware of new reviews. Respond to every review, both positive and negative. Friedman says The Hot Tub Store responds with a ‘thank you’ on positive reviews, and responds both publicly and privately to negative reviews.
“Even the best companies with a high dedication to customer service can fail to meet a customer’s expectations,” says Harley Lever, president of We Sprout Solutions, a marketing service for businesses. “Own the problem. All too often, business owners refuse to accept responsibility for legitimate customer complaints. Instead of being defensive, see a complaining customer as a person pinpointing a problem you must address.”
Friedman advises not to get argumentative: “There’s a concept we learned at a seminar years ago: Hug your haters,” he says. “Embrace it and learn from it because, truthfully, some of our one-star reviews are well earned. Even if it’s just a one-star review that says ‘I always get voicemail,’ that means we’ve got to do better at answering our phones.”
Denbar gives himself time to cool off before responding to a negative review. “You get pretty fired up,” he says. He then reaches out to the customer to rectify the problem, never mentioning the review. “I don’t want them to think that I’m more concerned about our public perception than their individual experience,” he says. With this approach, all but one customer has either gone back and changed it to a five-star review or deleted the bad review.
Gold says Yelpers are 33 percent more likely to upgrade a bad review if they receive a personalized response within 24 hours. “Always thank the reviewer for their feedback in your first line and then offer a solution,” she says. Detail the steps taken to resolve the issue in your written response to the negative review, which may help future customers discount the bad review. “Your positive response to a negative review,” Lever says, “can live forever as a testament to your commitment to customer service.”